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FOSDEM 17: The future of decentralised communication, identity and reputation with Matrix

27. Juni 2017 von Tobias

The future of decentralised communication, identity and reputation with Matrix (Matthew Hodgson)

The success of the decentralised internet depends on robust building blocks for decentralised identity, reputation and communication in general. We'll look at how Matrix.org (an open standard for decentralised communication) is attacking these problems - both now and in the future.

Matrix is an open source project that publishes a standard and reference FOSS implementations for decentralised communication, primarily focusing on defragmenting all the various communication silos (messaging, VoIP, IoT etc) that users are trapped in today. We believe that no single company or entity should ever have ownership or control a user's conversations - only the user themselves should have control.

In Matrix today rooms are replicated over all the servers which participate in a given conversation, decentralising by default similarly to Git or blockchain. Unlike other protocols, rooms have no single point of control on a given domain or entity and conversation history is shared equally over all participants. However, user accounts themselves are currently bound to a single 'home server', meaning that users are currently tied to a single service provider, similarly to email or XMPP.

In this talk, we'll discuss Matrix's plans to decentralise accounts too - letting users share their account data across whatever sets of servers they trust; providing account portability as a matter of course. We'll also discuss the related topic of decentralised identity - how to track how email addresses, phone numbers and other identifiers map to a given matrix user... without maintaining a centralised ID mapping database.

Finally, we'll explore the critical topic of decentralised reputation. Any decentralised system, whether it's Matrix, Email, XMPP, blockchain etc needs a way of tracking the relative reputation of the participants in the system in order to let users filter undesirable content. We see this as the single biggest challenge remaining for Matrix, and one that is vital to the internet at large - helping users self-curate the content they consume and breaking free of the echo-chamber effect of centralised services. We'll talk about the options we've been looking at with Matrix, and issue a call to arms for the whole community to work on solving this problem.

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Lecture, Technology

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